Coccidiosis and Backyard Chickens

Posted on: 14 June 2016

Coccidiosis is a potentially fatal condition that affects backyard chickens, with newborn chicks being particularly susceptible.  Although it's a relatively common problem, coccidiosis can be prevented by good flock and environmental management.  Read on to find out how to keep your chooks safe from coccidiosis. 

What causes coccidiosis?

Coccidiosis is caused by microscopic protozoan organisms called coccidia.  Coccidia live in the soil that forms the floor of chicken runs and coops, proliferating readily during spells of wet weather. 

The coccidia organisms' eggs are ingested by creatures such as worms and insects, which are eaten by the chickens.  The eggs hatch inside the chicken's gut, where the larvae attack and destroy the unfortunate bird's digestive tract.  The coccidia then reproduce, and the eggs are passed out in the chicken's faeces to continue the cycle in the chook coop or run.

What are the symptoms of coccidiosis?

Common symptoms of coccidiosis to look out for include the following:

  • reddish or dark brown droppings
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite and weight loss
  • collapse

How can you prevent coccidiosis?

  1. Feed your chooks a feed that contains a coccidiostat.  This is an additive will kill off any organisms that the chicken may ingest.  
  2. Keep the chook coop and run dry and clean out any wet bedding materials.  If you have a portable coop, try to position it in direct sunlight for part of the day; coccidia organisms won't tolerate heat or direct sunshine and will be killed off relatively easily by using this simple strategy.  However, it's also important to ensure that your hens have plenty of shade during hot weather.  
  3. Position all feeders and water containers so that they are level with the chickens' backs.  This prevents potentially contaminated droppings from landing in the feed and water where it could be eaten by your chooks.  
  4. Be sure to clean out and scrub all feeders and water containers every couple of days.

Treatment and prognosis

If you think your chickens may have coccidiosis, always consult your vet immediately.  Your vet should be able to prescribe a suitable drug that will kill the coccidia organisms.  This is important, as there are several different types of coccidia that respond to different drugs.  If the condition is caught early, there is a good chance that your birds will recover, although very young or weak chicks may die.

In conclusion

You can protect your backyard chooks from coccidiosis by following the guidelines given above.  For more advice on the prevention and treatment of this condition, have a chat with your vet.


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